STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High
21 Mass Politics and Imperialism
IN THIS CHAPTER
Summary: Among the factors leading to the development of European imperialism in the nineteenth century were economic needs created by industrialization, traditional competition between European nations, and the need for European political elites to find ways to win the support of a new political force: the masses. This chapter reviews the growth of European empires beyond Europe, chiefly in Africa, where European powers quickly staked out claims to virtually the entire continent, and Asia, where European control was generally exerted through local elites.
New Imperialism The expansion of European influence and control in the last decades of the nineteenth century. It was characterized by a shift from indirect commercial influence to active conquest and the establishment of direct political control of foreign lands around the globe, particularly in Africa and Asia.
Scramble for Africa The rush of European powers to claim interest in and sovereignty over portions of Africa in the first half of the 1880s. It culminated in the Berlin Conference of 1885, at which European powers laid down rules for the official claiming of African territories. As a result, by the end of the 1880s, only Liberia and Ethiopia remained independent African countries.
Suez Canal A canal opened in 1869, built by a French company with Egyptian labor, that connects the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. In 1875, Great Britain took advantage of the Egyptian ruler’s financial distress and purchased a controlling interest in the canal. Control of the canal led to British occupation and the annexation of Egypt.
Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 (sometimes known as “the Sepoy Mutiny”) A well-organized anti-British uprising led by military units of Indians who had formerly served the British. It resulted in the British government taking direct control of India and a restructuring of the Indian economy to produce and consume products in order to aid the British economy.
Taiping Rebellion An attempt to overthrow the Manchu rulers of China (1850—1864), whose authority had been undermined by Western interference. Defending their rule from the Rebellion made the Manchus ever more dependent on Western support.
Globalization Political, cultural, economic interdependence of the world’s nations and the global nature of contemporary problems.
Vincent Van Gogh
Rudyard Kipling (author of “The White Man’s Burden”)
In the nineteenth century, the development of mass politics helped to make imperialism the defining characteristic of a vigorous and powerful nation-state. In the first part of the nineteenth century, European imperialism (primarily in Africa and Asia) tended to take the form of indirect commercial influence and was, therefore, generally a continuance of Europe’s seventeenth- and eighteenth-century economic activity. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, European powers shifted from indirect commercial influence to active conquest and the establishment of direct political control of foreign lands around the globe, particularly in Africa and Asia. This imperial expansion of European influence and control is often referred to as the “New Imperialism.” It can also be regarded as a return to the mercantilist policies of the Age of Discovery and Exploration, or what can be called “old imperialism” (see Chapter 13).
Causes of the New Imperialism
The causes of the New Imperialism are a matter of debate among historians, but all explanations involve, to some degree, the factors summarized here. To accommodate their growing industrial economies, European countries needed increased access to raw materials from around the world. Sustained production relied on global markets for European manufactured goods. In addition, technological innovations in weaponry and transportation encouraged European military adventurism.
Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” expresses the sense of historical destiny that allowed the nineteenth-century unification of European nations and led to the growth of strong European national identities. It also shows the traditional European elites’ political beliefs as these elites competed for fame and glory through conquest. All these elements enabled European political elites to win support of newly politicized and enfranchised masses that they needed in order to stay in power.
The direct effects and devastating side effects of the New Imperialism are poignantly and tragically portrayed in Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart. The rivalries among European powers that developed with the New Imperialism also anticipate the events and characteristics that would lead Europe into World War I.
The Scramble for Africa
Two developments spurred an unprecedented “scramble” on the part of European powers to lay claim to vast areas of the African continent. They were the British takeover of the Suez Canal in Egypt and Belgium’s aggressive expansion into the Congo.
The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, was built by a French company and opened in 1869. In 1875, Great Britain took advantage of the Egyptian ruler’s financial distress and purchased a controlling interest in the canal. By the early 1880s, anti-British and anti-French sentiment was building in the Egyptian army. In the summer of 1882, the British launched a preemptive strike, landing troops in Egypt, defeating Egyptian forces, and setting up a virtual occupation of Egypt. Supposedly temporary, the occupation lasted 32 years. Great Britain’s control of Egypt led to further European expansion in Africa in two ways:
• In order to provide greater security for Egypt, Great Britain expanded farther south.
• In return for France’s acceptance of the British occupation of Egypt, Great Britain supported French expansion into northwest Africa.
A new competition for imperial control of sub-Saharan Africa was initiated by the expansion of Belgian interests in the Congo. In 1876, King Leopold II of Belgium formed a private company and sent explorer Henry Stanley to the Congo River basin to establish trading outposts and sign treaties with local chiefs. Alarmed by the rate at which the Belgians were claiming land in central Africa, the French expanded their claims in western Africa, and Bismarck responded with a flurry of claims for Germany in eastern Africa. This sudden burst of activity led to the Berlin Conference of 1885. There, representatives of European powers established free-trade zones in the Congo River basin and established guidelines for the partitioning of Africa. No African representatives were present at the conference. The guidelines essentially set up two principles:
• A European nation needed to establish enough physical presence to control and develop a territory before it could claim it.
• Claimants must treat the African population humanely.
After the Berlin Conference, European nations completed the Scramble for Africa until nearly the entire continent was, nominally at least, under European control. Unfortunately, the principle of humane treatment of Africans was rarely followed. European control in Africa resulted in a distinct lack—indeed, a blocking—of native economic and political development.
Dominance in Asia
In the era of the New Imperialism, European powers also exerted control over Asia. Here, however, the general method was to rule through local elites.
India: Ruled by Great Britain
In India, the British dominated, initially through the British East India Company, a private trading company that used its economic and military power to influence local politics. Following the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 (sometimes known as the Sepoy Mutiny), an organized anti-British uprising led by military units of Indians who had formerly served the British, the British government took direct control, naming Queen Victoria Empress of India, and restructured the Indian economy to produce and consume products in order to aid the British economy.
A sense of Indian nationalism began to develop as a response to the more intrusive British influence, resulting in the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. The Congress, though really an organization of Hindu elites, promoted the notion of a free and independent India.
Southeast Asia: Dominated by France
In Southeast Asia, the French emulated the British strategy of ruling through local elites and fostering economic dependence. During the 1880s and early 1890s, France established the Union of Indochina, effectively dominating in the areas that would become Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Union lasted until the definitive defeat of French armies at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
China: Under Increasing European Control
China had been infiltrated by British traders in the 1830s. The British traded opium grown in India to Chinese dealers in exchange for tea, silk, and other goods that were highly prized in Great Britain. When the Chinese government attempted to end the trade, Great Britain waged and won the Opium War (1839—1842) and forced the Chinese to sign the Treaty of Nanking. The treaty ceded Hong Kong to Great Britain, established several tariff-free zones for foreign trade, and exempted foreigners from Chinese law.
The humiliation of the Manchu rulers and the undermining of the Chinese economy that resulted from foreign interference led to the Taiping Rebellion (1850—1864). Defending their rule from the Rebellion made the Manchus ever more dependent on Western support. Chinese nationalism and resistance to foreign influence again manifested itself in the Boxer Rebellion (1899—1900). The combined forces of the European powers were able to suppress the rebellion, but in 1911, a revolution led by Sun Yat-sen succeeded in overthrowing the Manchu dynasty, and a Chinese republic was established.
Japan had been forcibly opened to Western trade by an American fleet commanded by Commodore Matthew J. Perry in 1853—1854. The Japanese government signed a number of treaties granting Western powers effective control of foreign trade. The result was civil war and revolution, which culminated in the Meiji Restoration, during which modernizers, determined to preserve Japanese independence, restored power to the emperor and reorganized Japanese society along Western lines. By 1900, Japan was an industrial and military power. In 1904, the country quarreled with Russia over influence in China and stunned the world with its victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1905).
Russia had reached the Pacific Coast by the seventeenth century; 200 years later it controlled Siberia, Central Asia, Turkestan, Manchuria, and everything leading south to the Black Sea (in part, thanks to the ailing Ottoman Empire). Russia divested itself of Alaska, selling it to the United States in 1867. Russia agreed with Great Britain to use Afghanistan as a buffer state between the two powers and to partition Persia. In 1905, Russia’s attempt to take over Korea brought about a confrontation with Japan, and Russia lost the subsequent war.
Questions 1—3 refer to the following passage:
This is the entire issue of empire. A people limited in number and energy and in the land they occupy have the choice of improving to the utmost the political and economic management of their own land, confining themselves to such accessions of territory as are justified by the most economical disposition of a growing population; or they may proceed, like the slovenly farmer, to spread their power and energy over the whole earth, tempted by the speculative value or the quick profits of some new market, or else by mere greed of territorial acquisition, and ignoring the political and economic wastes and risks involved by this imperial career.
It must be clearly understood that this is essentially a choice of alternatives; a full simultaneous application of intensive and extensive cultivation is impossible. A nation may either, following the example of Denmark or Switzerland, put brains into agriculture, develop a finely varied system of public education, general and technical, apply the ripest science to its special manufacturing industries, and so support in progressive comfort and character a considerable population upon a strictly limited area; or it may, like Great Britain, neglect its agriculture, allowing its lands to go out of cultivation and its population to grow up in towns, fall behind other nations in its methods of education and in the capacity of adapting to its uses the latest scientific knowledge, in order that it may squander its pecuniary and military resources in forcing bad markets and finding speculative fields of investment in distant corners of the earth, adding millions of square miles and of unassimilable population to the area of the Empire. . . .
No remedy will serve which permits the future operation of these forces. It is idle to attack Imperialism or Militarism as political expedients or policies unless the axe is laid at the economic root of the tree, and the classes for whose interest Imperialism works are shorn of the surplus revenues which seek this outlet.
John A. Hobson, Imperialism, 1902
1. Hobson understood imperialism to result from which of the following?
A. The strategic requirements of national defense
B. Economic decisions
C. Political necessities
D. A religious mission
2. Hobson believed that imperialism was not inevitable and argued which of the following positions?
A. It was necessary for a country to thrive economically.
B. It was beneficial in the long run to industrialized countries.
C. It was beneficial in the long run for the countries being conquered.
D. It was detrimental to the long-term economic health of the imperialist country.
3. According to the passage, who benefited the most from imperialism?
A. The country being conquered
B. The imperialist country
C. Only certain classes within the imperialist country
D. Only certain classes within the conquered country
Chapter Question (Causation)
4. Identify TWO causes of the New Imperialism and briefly explain how those causal factors might be used to explain the Scramble for Africa.
Answers and Explanations
1. B is correct because the passage refers to the economic choice of domestic investment versus quick profits through imperial expansion. A is incorrect because the passage does not refer to the strategic requirements of national defense. C is incorrect because the passage does not refer to politics. D is incorrect because the passage does not refer to any religious mission.
2. D is correct because the passage argues that the practice of imperialism produces short-term profits for some classes within the imperialist country, but leads to the neglect of investment necessary for the country’s long-term economic health. A is incorrect because the essay does not refer to imperialism as an economic necessity. B and C are incorrect because the passage argues that, in the long term, imperialism is economically harmful.
3. C is correct because the passage is analyzing the roots of imperialism (and thus the actions of the imperialist country, not the conquered country) and because the passage refers to “the classes for whose interest Imperialism works.” A and D are incorrect because the passage is analyzing the roots of imperialism (and thus the actions of the imperialist country, not the conquered country). B is incorrect because the passage states that there are “classes for whose interest Imperialism works,” and argues that, more generally, imperialism is bad for all countries concerned.
4. Suggested answer:
Thesis: Two causes of the New Imperialism that help to explain the Scramble for Africa are the need for new raw materials in the expanding industrial economy of Europe and technological innovations in weaponry and transportation.
I. The need for new raw materials in the expanding industrial economy of Europe helps to explain the Scramble for Africa by providing a motive for European expansion into Africa, for example, diamonds in South Africa.
II. Technological innovations in weaponry (such as the breech-loading rifle) and transportation (such as the steam-powered gunboat) help to explain the Scramble for Africa by providing the means that encouraged European economic and military adventurism.
The New Imperialism was the result of a complex set of impulses, which included economic needs created by industrialization, competition among European nations fueled by nationalism and militarism, and the need for political elites to find ways to win the support of a new political force—the masses. The New Imperialism resulted in the Scramble for Africa, in which European powers laid claim to the entire continent in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In Asia, the New Imperialism generally took the form of indirect European control exerted through local elites.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (and be sure to read the Yeats poem “The Second Coming”)—imperialism in Africa
Kamala Markandaya, Nectar in a Sieve—imperialism in India
J. G. Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur—imperialism in India
Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs—Mexican Revolution
Enrique Rodó, Ariel—Latin America late nineteenth century
Graham Greene, The Quiet American—French Indochina War in Vietnam